The Tabernacle: From Sinner to Saint


A third understanding of the Hebrew Tabernacle is that it describes and illustrates the believer’s transition from excluded sinner to reconciled saint and ministering priest. Once again, I give you a brief tour of the ancient complex that our various spiritual states might be seen.


We start well outside the perimeter fence. In fact, we are even outside the camp, being desert wandering nomads. The lush gardens of Eden were ruined by the Fall; life is now a sojourn through the barren, thirsty sands of godlessness. Some of us may have been attracted to the gospel by moving amongst the people of God. Yet dwelling in the tents of the tribes is not enough; God is found among His people, but He is not the same as His people. For this, we must move towards the camp’s centre, and approach the Tabernacle itself.

A long linen barrier prevents entry to God’s presence. Our sin stops us approaching on our own terms. Only through the formally appointed entrance can we proceed. This is Christ who said “I am the Door” and “If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture”. Without fully understanding, we pass through the first colourful screen, threaded with purple, scarlet, blue and white yards, invoking His great offices. When we call on the name of the Lord and are saved, we seldom fully understand how and wherefore; only when we enter the Tabernacle do we begin to grasp and understand the mystery of godliness. Having been brought in, we first see the awful place of sacrifice.

Outer Courtyard

The Bronze Altar would have been a dreadful place to behold; the stench of gore and death, the terrified cries of the doomed offerings, the bloody pools beside the altar’s four corners. The beautiful, colourful curtain through which we passed cannot hide the terrible price paid for our sin and salvation. The ransomed sinner must first comprehend the horrors of Calvary before he can proceed to the place of presence. If he cannot reckon the enormity of his crimes, neither can he estimate the awesome generosity of the grace spent on redeeming him. At this point, we are justified. Having repented of sin while applying the blood to our souls, we are fully justified before the great tribunal. The price is paid, the penalty borne. Having been made aware of sin within us, and the centrality of the cross, we move on towards the Bronze Laver.

The Laver was a large bronze bowl from which water was used to wash the priest’s hands and feet. Ordinarily, a regular Israelite worshipper was not here bathed or washed, but only those who ministered to them at the altar. Yet the believer is not only called to salvation, but to life-long ministry; we are part of a royal priesthood of all believers. Having freely received God’s grace, we now give our lives for others, that some may be saved. At the very moment of justification, pictured by the altar, God begins the process of sanctification, pictured by the laver. This is the alteration to our lifestyle and values; those who truly receive God’s saving grace must be changed by it. Their government has been switched; having been born children of wrath in a state of enmity to God, they now seek to cheerfully keep His Law and obey Him in all things. Whereas justification is instantaneous and fully achieved in one moment, sanctification is a process that is slow and sometimes painful. We are washed clean, though often we might return to the Laver, that the Spirit’s powerful cleansing might again be applied. We read the laver was made from the women's bronze mirrors procured from Egypt. Gone now are our earthly vanities; how the Lord views us is more important than outward appearance. 

Holy Place

Now a justified and (being) sanctified sinner, we move on into the presence of God, enjoying fellowship with Christ. Moving into the Holy Place, away from the world’s clamour, we learn to have a sweet and intimate fellowship with the Saviour. Of Christ we may never tire nor be fully satisfied; His riches and mysteries continue to amaze and overawe.

The Table of Showbread was a golden stand upon which twelve loaves of bread were kept, replaced each sabbath. They remind us of the constant and reliable source of strength and nourishment each child of God shall receive. As our days, so our strength; as our weaknesses, so His grace. Those whom the Father has given Him, He will not lose. Even the feeblest of saints will never die for want of succour, for the Saviour will provide all, and renew week by week, day by day. Every tribe has its allocated bread, from the prominent Judahs and Simeons, to the lesser known Isaachars and Zubuluns. Manna is not just for the preacher and pastor, but for the least known and quietest.

The Menorah or golden candlestick bespeaks Christ’s light operating in the believer’s life. Though we are not given sufficient light to see beyond the Tabernacle, we have enough to see what happens within the Tent of Presence and our Christian status. Although I cannot see the day of my death, nor what will happen even next week, I know where I go when I die and who I am according to God’s word. The Bible is a precious illuminator, and by it we gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the gospel's riches.

The Golden Altar of incense here pictures the believer’s prayer life. Having been saved and sanctified, and now maturing with our greater knowledge of things eternal, we worship our God and offer to Him our petitions and requests. In the book of Revelation, incense ascending to the heavenly temple is likened to the prayers of the saints. That which we speak to God rises to God’s heavenly dwelling wherein the worship is received and requests considered. The Christian life is not just about receiving God’s grace, but giving back to Him our prayers and praise, such as they are. Furthermore, we pray not from afar, but in His presence, like the priests of old.

Most Holy Place

In one respect, the Christian is already in the Holy of Holies, beholding the precious things of God which former generations could barely discern. The Law of God is written on our hearts; we boldly enter the throne room of grace, not annually, but daily. The separating wall or thick veil is torn asunder, and we enjoy better access to God then ever Israel’s high priests.

In another sense, full and actual entering of God’s presence can only be realised after death, a passing through the final veil. The saints in heaven behold the very face of God and stand before His throne. Though we join them by faith and have His Spirit abide with us right now, there is more to come. We stand, as it were, in front of the final curtain, knowing that at the Lord’s appointed time, the entrance into eternal bliss will open, and we shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye. No more sanctifying washes, for we shall be perfect; no more showbread, for we shall be immortal; no more Menorah, for we shall know all things.

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Cor 2:9

Image by idodesign from Pixabay